It is almost two months since the March 8 political tsunami of the 2008 general election which saw the end of Barisan Nasional’s unbroken two-thirds parliamentary majority and the loss of state government in five states – Penang, Perak, Selangor, Kedah and Kelantan.
More than two weeks after the March 8 political tsunami, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi admitted that the result of the elections was a strong message that he “had not moved fast enough in pushing through with the reforms that he had promised to undertake’ when he was given an unprecedented mandate in the 2004 general election winning 91% of the parliamentary seats.
Abdullah said: “I thank the Malaysian people for the message. Point made and point taken.”
It was a sign of the Prime Minister grappling with the serious problem of denial but it was not assuring enough as he had missed the whole point of the March 8 electoral verdict – not that he “had not moved fast enough” in reforms he had pledged more than four years ago, but that he had hardly moved at all apart from reform sloganeering and periodically paying lip service to them.
Have Abdullah and his Cabinet now got the full message of Malaysians in the March 8 political tsunami?
This was my first parliamentary question to the Prime Minister last Wednesday asking him “to outline the top ten priority reform measures which his government will implement in the next 12 months to demonstrate that he has heard the voices of the people in the March 8, 2008 ‘political tsunami’”
This is the Prime Minister’s written answer:
Seperti yang telah saya nyatakan sebelum ini, pihak Kerajaan menghormati keputusan rakyat sebagaimana yang telah dizahirkan dalam Pilihanraya Umum ke-12 baru-baru ini, dan kita menerima keputusan tersebut dengan hati yang terbuka. Pada masa yang sama, kita juga akan memastikan agar mandat yang telah diberi oleh rakyat, untuk terus mentadbir Negara ke arah (kejayaan dan kegemilangan tidak akan disia-siakan.
Kerajaan yang saya pimpin adalah kerajaan yang berpengalaman; kerajaan yang terbukti. Namun saya percaya bahawa Kerajaan yang saya pimpin ini tidaklah bersifat jumud. Saya yakin bahawa Kerajaan pimpinan saya akan terus bersedia untuk menjiwai hasrat rakyat, serta menangani isu-isu yang menjadi bebanan serta menimbulkan kegusaran rakyat.
Atas dasar itu lah, maka saya telah mengumumkan sebuah agenda pembaharuan bagi memenuhi hasrat rakyat. Butiran agenda tersebut adalah seperti berikut:
• Pertama: menangani impak kenaikan harga barang, terutamanya makanan, akibat arus pasaran global;
• Kedua: mengkaji semula pelaksanaan pelan-pelan ekonomi negara bagi memastikan agar faedah pembangunan negara akan dinikmati oleh setiap rakyat;
• Ketiga: mengurangkan jurang pendapatan dikalangan dan diantara golongan etnik, di samping memastikan kesaksamaan untuk semua rakyat Malaysia;
• Keempat: mengurangkan kadar jenayah;
• Kelima: meneruskan usaha kearah memerangi rasuah dan meningkatkan budaya integriti;
• Keenam: menyokong pembaharuan serta meningkatkan keyakinan rakyat terhadap institusi kehakiman dan
• Ketujuh: menangani isu sensitive berhubung agama termasuk pembinaan dan pemindahan rumah ibadat.
Setakat ini, saya telahpun membuat beberapa pengumuman berkaitan dengan agenda yang telah saya gariskan dan ianya telah diterima baik oleh rakyat. Pembaharuan-pembaharuan ini adalah tambahan kepada agenda pembangunan nasional seperti yang digariskan dalam Misi Nasional dan Wawasan 2020. Saya yakin bahawa agenda besar Kerajaan ini akan dapat menambah baik kualiti kehidupan rakyat, dan saya percaya rakyat akan terus memberikan sokongan kepada Kerajaan dalam usaha untuk melaksanakan pelbagai langkah bagi membawa Malaysia kearah era yang lebih gemilang.
I am shocked that after almost two months of the March 8 political tsunami and more than four years of failure to deliver the reforms he had promised in the 2004 general election,, the Prime Minister could not name ten areas for priority reform but had to make do with seven.
What about the immediate and unconditional release of the five Hindraf leaders, P. Uthayakumar, DAP Selangor State Assemblyman M. Manoharan, V. Ganabatirau, R. Kenghadharan, T. Vasantha Kumar and all the other detainees under the Internal Security Act, totally over 60 persons with some inc arcerated for over six years?
What about the repeal of all draconian and repressive laws like the Internal Security Act, the Police Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Sedition Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act?
What about the full implementation of the 125 recommendations of the Royal Police commission to create an efficient, incorruptible, professional world-class police service to reduce crime, eradicate corruption and uphold human rights, particularly the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC)?
What about mass media reforms to allow free and responsible press to flourish in Malaysia?
What about parliamentary reforms and modernization to create a first-world Parliament ?
What about the full commitment to enhance Malaysia’s international competitiveness to enable the country to successfully face the challenges of globalization – sending out the single-minded message that the future well-being, progress and prosperity of the nation hinges on the ability of Malaysians to compete with the rest of the world and not Malays versus non-Malays?
And most important of all – what about nation-building reforms as the most important message of the March 8 political tsunami is marginalization and alienation of Malaysians, regardless of ethnicity, religion, geography and even political affiliation by the nation-building process.
The Barisan Nasional government had spent RM100 million to celebrate the 50th Merdeka anniversary, and we are still in the midst of this celebration which is meant to be a year-long affair from August 31 last year.
Money had been squandered on meaningless fanfare, ceremonies and fireworks which had no meaning for the people or nation in pointing the future towards a more united, harmonious, just, progressive and prosperous Malaysia in the next 50 years.
In fact, the months leading up to the major 50th Merdeka anniversary celebrations on August 31st last year and its ensuing months were most divisive ones, as they saw racial, religious and political polarization at their worst.
Ironically, the most important and meaningful event in the 50th Merdeka anniversary is none other than the March 8 “political tsunami’ in the 2008 general election which, by sweeping away the two-thirds parliamentary majority of Umno and Barisan Nasional and power in five states, should be taken as a wake-up call to all Malaysians that something is very wrong with the 50-year Malaysian nation-building process.
Two days after the 2008 general election result, an op-ed article appeared in the Asian Wall Street Journal (March 11) in the name of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, entitled “Malaysia will heal her divisions”, where the Prime Minister pledged:
“As there has been much speculation about the implications of our election results, I wish to offer clarity on three critically important points:
“First, we have heard the voice of our citizens, and I will dedicate myself, in this second term, to healing the divisions which became evident during the campaign. That will mean developing new and concrete initiatives, not just rhetoric, that bring our people together and ensure that no one is left behind as Malaysia prospers, whether they are ethnic Malays, Chinese or Indians.”
Are Barisan Nasional MPs and backbenchers prepared to speak up for the immediate and unconditional release of the five Hindraf leaders and all the other ISA detainees in the present session of Parliament?
(Speech  in Parliament on the Royal Address on Tuesday, 6th May 2008)